Expressive Arts & Nursing with Patricia Manning

Art by EAFI student Meagan Thompson
Art by EAFI student Meagan Thompson

“It is a world where you can just be yourself. You can laugh at yourself, cry with yourself, relax with yourself” …Patricia Manning

This blog series – Expressive Arts in the World- answers the questions: How is this work  actually practiced in the world, and how does it change lives?

One of the things I love most about Expressive Arts is the diversity of settings in which it is practiced, and I so enjoy interviewing practitioners about their work and sharing their stories with you. Join the conversation! Leave your comments below.

…….Kathleen Horne


Patricia and Kathleen
Patricia Manning and Kathleen Horne

Today, I introduce you to Patricia Manning, who brings this work to the healthcare setting, as an RN and a childbirth educator. I think you will enjoy what she has to share.

I met Patricia when she came to her first class as an RN seeking CEU’s and feeling curious and intrigued at how art might complement nursing. This was in 2008, when Victoria Domenichello-Anderson and I were teaching the Art and Healing Certificate program at Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, FL. (The Ringling program was a precursor of Expressive Arts Florida Institute Certificate Training program.)

Journal pages - personal practice
Journal pages – personal practice

Since that time, Patricia has covered a lot of territory, and has sought out a great variety of training and experience opportunities along the way.  It has been a great pleasure to witness this, first as a teacher, then as a mentor, and now as a colleague. As of 2016, she is our Healthcare Liaison at Expressive Arts Florida Institute. Patricia embodies the essence of Expressive Arts as she continues to deepen and expand her work with others, while staying grounded in her own personal practice.

Kathleen: Patricia, who are the people you work with?

Patricia: Women of childbearing age, healthcare professionals, nurses, care-givers, and mental health professionals.

I work with at-risk mothers-to-be and new mothers and their infants (up to 6 weeks after birth) in a group home setting. I use Expressive Arts to complement my childbirth and parenting education sessions.

Kathleen: Bringing the healing power of arts into these settings is incredibly important. Could you say a little bit about how this focus has developed for you?

Pieces of a Dream
Pieces of a Dream

Patricia: As an RN and a student of Expressive Arts, I was able to identify many areas in healthcare that would benefit from the arts. In fact my first class in expressive arts coincided with a three day conference I was attending on the neonatal intensive care (NICU) environment and its effect on newborns and their families. As a parent and grandparent of a newborn in intensive care myself, I was inspired by the healing power of bringing expressive arts into this settings.

In one class, we were asked to design a process that could be applied to a specific group. I partnered with another student – Sandra Dryden – and we collaborated on a process – Pieces of a Dream – that could be used to help mothers/fathers bond with their NICU babies. After presenting that to our class,  I created a research poster accepted by University of South Florida for the next NICU conference. The poster was then chosen for the National Perinatal Association Conference in Washington, DC, the Florida Nursing Magnet conference in Naples, FL and the American Holistic Nurses Association Conference in Norfolk, VA.

Poster session

Taking Expressive Arts one-step further within the nursing community I presented a workshop at the 2015 American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA) conference in Branson, MO. The workshop presented both didactic and hands on examples of how expressive arts can be used in a clinical setting and applied to the ‘caring process’ – a core value of Holistic Nursing. This past spring, as a committee member of the 2016 AHNA conference, I created an expressive arts process that was a part of the AHNA conference opening ceremony in Bonita Springs, Florida. 

Kathleen: I love the way that you took a student assignment and expanded it, following your own personal experience and creating a unique path. You are really an ambassador for the conjoining of healthcare and expressive arts! It has been a joy to witness. Most recently, you have worked closely with us, at Expressive Arts Florida Institute, guiding us in the process to provide continuing nursing education units (CNE’s), and we are very grateful for that!

Facilitating “pieces of a dream”

Patricia: Yes. By incorporating the guidelines from the American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA) and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) we are now able to offer 16 CNE’s for the Art as a Healing Practice workshop series. Another core value of Holistic nursing is self-care and self-reflection, The series, Art as a Healing Practice, originally created by you, provides those who attend the opportunity – through guided meditation, active listening, creativity, witnessing and writing – to take time for themselves, reflect on the process and grow internally. The series provides a safe place for internal growth for anyone who attends, However for those professionals who give so much of themselves through high-tech care, this workshop series can be a place of renewal, relaxation and growth through a low-tech, creative process.


AHNA Conference participant
Conference participant


Kathleen: We are hopeful that this will be a pathway for us to bring more arts experiences to nurses, in service of both their own self-care and patient care. Patricia, in the early summer, you were an integral part of the AHNA  Conference, and did a beautiful job of bringing a powerful expressive arts experience to the participants. My partners at EAFI – Victoria Domenichello-Anderson and Tamara Teeter Knapp were also part of that experience. Could you say something about that?

Art-making table at AHNA conference- with Victoria Domenichello-Anderson
Art-making table at AHNA conference- with Victoria Domenichello-Anderson



Patricia: As a conference committee member, I was given the opportunity to introduce an Expressive Arts process at the opening ceremony, and to carry the process throughout the conference and into the closing ceremony.  Tamara and I discussed the conference theme – Interconnectedness – and we decided that the Flower of Life – its symbolism and meaning, be incorporated into the ceremony. Four hundred attendees were expected at the conference, so the process had to be user friendly, cost effective, easily presented to a large group, simple and concise in directions and meaningful. I played with the flower of life both awake and asleep and finally I had an ‘ah-ha’ moment. I could give each individual a complete circle flower card. As each card connected to another, the outer petals could over lapped and interconnected. The interconnecting circles began to form a large flower of life pattern that continued indefinitely!

Kathleen: As someone who has worked extensively with the Flower of Life symbol, I have to say that the variation you created is really brilliant!

Individual Flower of Life card
Individual Flower of Life card

Patricia: At the opening ceremony each attendee was given a card and a pencil as they entered the room. I introduced the cards with a simple power point presentation and led a meditation asking each nurse to write one or two special gifts or special areas of practice she/he brought to the conference. They had an opportunity to create, interconnect and share their cards and gifts throughout the conference. Again with the power point I showed the possibilities of finished cards – petals filled with gifts and creatively designed and colored. A Creativity Table with colored pens, pencils and water color pencils was provided outside the conference rooms for their use throughout the conference.

Closing Ceremony

Victoria and Tamara hosted the creativity table; assisting attendees in creating their flower of life cards.  At the closing ceremony the completed cards were assembled on a large circular table along with symbols representing the state of Florida – shells and sand, citrus fruit, palm leaves and orange blossoms. It was a wonderful process of interconnectedness using expressive arts!


Individual "flowers" connected and interconnected at closing ceremony of conference
Individual “flowers” connected and interconnected at closing ceremony of conference


Kathleen: It sounds really beautiful, and I love the photographs. Although I was in Canada at the time, and couldn’t be there, I know that Tamara and Victoria were really struck by how receptive the group was to the arts, and what wonderful connection were made!

Patricia: I really appreciated all the help from EAFI to make this a success!



“My daughter gave me an artist bag filled with supplies and said “You have always wanted to do art, well now is your chance”

Kathleen: Changing gears a little, It is always fascinating to me to hear about how people find themselves drawn to the Expressive Arts, and our students and readers often ask about that as well. Could you tell me about your own pathway?

Center of circle

Patricia: In 2008 my husband decided to retire and wanted to live in Florida for part of the year. I was still working as an RN and teaching childbirth classes for a hospital just outside of Philadelphia. I really wasn’t ready for this transition yet!! That Christmas my daughter gave me an artist bag filled with supplies and said “You have always wanted to do art, well now is your chance! The Ringling College of Art and Design is near you. Why don’t you go and take some classes?” Later that week I looked on the Ringling website and saw they had a certificate program in Art and Healing……and I thought – “I wonder how they teach art that way??” Little did I know what I was walking into!

Everyone was sitting in a circle and in the center of the circle on the flood was a colorful cloth, a candle, a rock, a plant and small chimes. I wondered if I was in the right place?? As we went around the circle and introduced ourselves it sort of reminded me of my own childbirth classes, except everyone had art supplies instead of pillows and blankets! Also the class was so diverse – there were a few nurses, some mental health counselors, some artists, teachers and others. I was starting quite a journey but I didn’t know it yet.

Personal practice journal
Personal practice journal

As I moved through the program I had many ‘Ah-ha’ moments. Through our Applications course I was introduced to Julia Riley, RN, MN, AHN-BC, REACE, who taught “Art at the Bedside”, an artist-in-residence who worked with patients at the Moffitt Cancer Center, an elementary school counselor and an infant/child mental health specialist working with sand trays, and all had amazing stories to tell. I soon began to envision how I could adapt Expressive Arts into my own nursing practice and its importance in health and wellness.

Kathleen: I am so glad your daughter gave you that bag of supplies!! From your personal and professional experience so far, what do you see as some of the benefits of expressive arts in serving people, changing lives, and affecting the world?

Patricia: I see Expressive Arts as a universal communicator, allowing for cultural and educational diversity, providing creative methods of expression for self-care and care of others, while fostering the opportunity to witness and appreciate alternative ways of knowing.

All forms of expressive art helps to move you out of your every day – and enter into a world of exploration- it helps you to dive deep within. It is a world where you can just be yourself. You can laugh at your self, cry with yourself, relax with yourself.

At a recent course at EAFI, expressive arts practitioners from around the globe shared with us in via Skype, some beautiful expressive processes. How wonderful it was to connect, appreciate and learn on this expressive level. There is no need to speak the same language to appreciate the beauty in each other.

Kathleen: Nicely said! I know that you have recently participated in a Healing Touch training. I am interested in how you might integrated into your work. Any ideas?

Patricia: Many holistic nurses use some form of energy healing along with the specific area of expertise – geriatric, orthopedic, psychiatric etc. This past June I attended a workshop on Healing Touch. One of the participants mentioned she lived near me in Pennsylvania. She has been a Healing Touch practitioner for some time and just becoming a Healing Touch educator. Her first class was the last week in July and asked if I interested in attending. The fact we had this chance meeting and this class was 20 from my home in PA…the answer was YES!

I found the weekend fascinating and experienced the power of the energy we all hold within ourselves. This is just the beginning – yet another journey for me to take. There a number of levels I need to move through.

Personal Practice piece

I believe Expressive Arts is a also form of energy healing. When you are in the process of creating an expressive art piece it is energy that is working with you, fueling your thoughts and actions. It is also energy we receive when we witness our own or another’s art. So right now I need to attune myself and focus on the energy at work. Since it isn’t necessary to physically touch someone Healing Touch could be used with intention when facilitating a group especially when anxiety may be high. Many times I find myself in this situation when I am working with my at-risk mothers.

Kathleen:  I can hardly wait to see what you create next! I am struck with how your story includes so much serendipity and synchronicity!

I know that you, as a healthcare professional, are a huge advocate of self-care. I also know you have a very busy life! How do you balance self-care with care for others?

Patricia: That is a very good question!! This truly is my biggest challenge. I really appreciate structure since my life can be so unstructured. I have five children and six grandchildren – and a very understanding husband. I find myself pulled in many directions and while things can get crazy – also I do enjoy the chaos.

I have participated in a number of on-line sessions with Kathleen and when I am in Florida I try to get involved in classes at EAFI. At home I keep a small art journal. I have been using collage lately and trying to increase my journal writing. A few days ago I bought a watercolor journal and iridescent paints I will be bringing on an upcoming trip.

Kathleen: Let’s talk a little about what is coming up. Patricia, you and I are facilitating Art as a Healing Practice, beginning in November. This is a workshop series that I designed and have been teaching for many years; it is a pleasure to have you join me as a facilitator as we offer this for CNE’s for nurses, as well as CEU’s for mental health counselors. I know you have a new workshop offering as well – can you say something about that too?

Personal practice piece
Personal practice piece

Patricia: Most hospitals and private practitioners offer childbirth classes to their clients. These classes are tailored to address the needs of parents and provide them with important knowledge and information specific to the practice and culture of an individual physician or hospital.

My new workshop will be an adjunct to parents’ birthing classes and will include an opportunity for creative expression and positive reinforcement of mother’s innate ability as she progresses through pregnancy, labor and delivery. Participants will explore feelings around pregnancy, delivery, motherhood or childhood. Using relaxed breathing and guided meditations they will produce their own art in a supportive and creative atmosphere.

Kathleen: Thank you so much, Patricia. I love the example that you provide, as you weave the arts into your life and work, taking it to the places that have meaning for you, and to people you love to share with. You are doing so much to bring expressive arts and holistic nursing together!


Would you like to know more?

*We have a free webinar – A Map for your Creative Journey. Click the link for our next date.

*Art as a Healing Practice will be offered in Sarasota, beginning November.

*Would you like to know more about Patricia’s upcoming childbirth classes? Email us at

*Join our mailing list and receive our complimentary e-book: Step in to Your Personal Expressive Arts Practice.

*Read Expressive Arts in the World #1, #2 (Keiko Soejima), #3 (Nicki Koethner)and #4 (Positively Postcards

*Read the stories of three of our graduates: Tammie Norton, Pam Hirons, Theresa Benson.

*Join IEATA (International Expressive Arts Therapy Association) and participate in the next conference, coming up in September 2017 in Winnipeg, Canada.

*Get our e-course; begin today!

Register for our brand new ONLINE live workshops:

EXPRESSIVE ARTS DISCOVERY – click for next date

INTRODUCING EXPRESSIVE ARTS 2-Day Online Training Retreat – click for next date

*Start, or continue, your own training! Our next intensives are:

Expressive Arts for Body/Mind/Spirit and The Business and Profession of Expressive Arts, both in October.

It is such a privilege and a joy to be a part of this international community of expressive arts practitioners who are effecting change in the world in so many ways. Expressive Arts embraces the power of the imagination, and asks that we bring our whole selves, our best selves, to our lives, to those we serve, and to the Earth. It is all about engaging and following the threads of creativity, in service of wellness, healing, wholeness, connection, community, and social change.

With immense gratitude,

Kathleen, Victoria, Tamara

faculty collage









Leave a Reply